Route of the Deschutes
Flowing from Little Lava Lake in the Cascade mountains near Mt. Bachelor, the Deschutes River flows northeast, passing through the town of Bend, Oregon. As it continues north, it passes near Warm Springs and then flows through Maupin, where rafting and fishing trips are a key part of the economy. The river continues north until it reaches the Columbia River for a total length of around 250 miles. Our trips take place on the “Lower Deschutes Wild & Scenic River” which is the 100-mile section of the river that starts just below the Pelton Dam northwest of Madras, Oregon. The scenery here is classic American West where clean waters flow through a dramatic desert canyon. In places, there are towering cliffs of black, brown, and reddish basalt, and in others, rugged hills scattered with sagebrush and junipers. Along the way you are likely to see osprey and bald eagles soaring, mergansers and other waterfowl swimming, and maybe a mink or mule deer along the banks. The green riparian zone that borders the river makes for a stunning contrast with the surrounding desert scenery.
Where Does the Deschutes River Start and End?
Lower Deschutes River – Upper Section
Sections of the Lower Deschutes
River rafters and other recreationists divide the lower 100 miles of the Deschutes into two sections, delineated by the tumultuous Sherars Falls. The upper section from Pelton Dam past Maupin to Sherars Falls is roughly 58 miles. The lower section from Sherars Falls to the Columbia River flows north another 42 miles. Each section is scenically different and both sections offer exciting whitewater. ROW Adventures offers trips on all the different sections of the Lower Deschutes.
Once the river was designated as a National Wild & Scenic River in 1988, its reputation as a superb white water rafting river grew. People discovered that in addition to fantastic rafting, it is an ideal region for fishing, hiking, and cycling. The river has great flows all summer. Sunny days and a summer with little rain are additional features that make the Deschutes perfect for both day rafting tours as well as multiday overnight rafting trips.
Lower Deschutes River – Lower Section
A National Treasure
The Deschutes is truly a national treasure and has been recognized as such by inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Deschutes was given protection under the Act in 1988 safeguarding it from any hydro development and making sure that the river remains free-flowing for generations to come.
The Deschutes River flows through the traditional homeland of the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute tribes who lived here for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans. Today, the Warm Springs Reservation borders the west side of the Deschutes from the Pelton Dam downstream to just above the Dixon camp area. We honor, respect, and recognize these peoples through our Territory Acknowledgement and welcome you to learn more on our Territory Acknowledgement page or in our Blog about the Indigenous People of the Deschutes River.
Wild, But Not A Wilderness Rafting Trip
It should be noted that this is not a wilderness rafting trip, as there is a railroad on one side of the river and in some places, a road that roughly parallels the other side. If you’re looking for a wilderness rafting experience, we would suggest our trips on Oregon’s Owyhee, Rogue, Grande Ronde or any of our Idaho river trips such as the Snake River in Hells Canyon, the Salmon River Canyons, or Middle Fork of the Salmon. Or if you’re looking for a wilderness river trip without whitewater, our Missouri River canoe trips along the Lewis and Clark trail in central Montana are another great choice.
While not a wilderness rafting trip, it should be said that the massive scale of the beautiful western scenery truly dwarfs the human development that has occurred in some parts of the Deschutes river canyon. When you float the Deschutes and gaze up at the massive basalt cliffs and expansive western scenery, the human impact seems to disappear.
Magnificence Beckons – The Lower Deschutes Wild & Scenic River is a fantastic destination for any nature-lover, family vacation seeker, or adventurous soul looking to discover one of the most beautiful places in the United States.